KPIs, pricing questions, content syndication were among 2019 highlights

By Matt Lindsay

Mather Economics

Atlanta, Georgia, USA


We have reached the end of 2019, and it is a good time to review the topics of discussion and industry trends that occurred this year. The annual review of blog posts has become a tradition (since this is the second time we have done it), and a review article seems well suited to the attention span that remains available in the waning weeks of December.

Let me first say thank you to the publishers working with Mather Economics on interesting and transformative projects throughout the year. We like to share insights from these engagements with the industry, while changing names and data to protect confidentiality, and this would not be possible without your collaboration and permission.

The past year has provided insight on several questions newsrooms have as they continue to prosper in a changing media landscape.
The past year has provided insight on several questions newsrooms have as they continue to prosper in a changing media landscape.

Another very big thank you goes to INMA and those of you who read these blog posts. Many of you have reached out to us at Mather to ask questions or comment on these posts, and we are grateful for the feedback.

2019 was a productive year with many interesting innovations and transformative changes. I hope you find the topics below a helpful reminder of all that has happened.

January: We recommended the KPI of core relationships as a better measure of audience size than traditional paid metrics. This was the second article in a series on KPIs and leveraged data from our book with Xavier van Leeuwe and Matthijs van de Peppel of Mediahuis. The first KPI article appeared in November 2018, and it summarised the benefits of total customer lifetime value.

February: The topic of our February blog post was content that is helpful for converting paid subscribers and how it differs from content that retains existing subscribers. Emotional reactions are helpful for conversion while habit-forming content is key for retention.

March: A third article in our KPI series focused on revenue yield presented our findings from more than 10 years of subscription pricing strategy and implementation work with news media companies.

April: The final post on KPIs concluded our series on this topic. We discussed how KPIs can be used effectively across a news organisation to focus three primary functions: editorial, audience, and advertising. We shared case studies from Gannett, Newsday, and The Dallas Morning News, as well as a few anonymous examples of unsuccessful KPIs.

May: Three key pricing questions were answered in our May post. These questions were what to do with disengaged paying subscribers, how best to notify customers of an increase, and what level of price discrimination maximises customer and publisher wellbeing.

June: In June we discussed the answer to the question of where analytics should live within an organisation. We addressed this complex topic and summarised key considerations for such an organizational design decision.

July: We described a hoped-for market solution to content syndication and revenue sharing in our July post. We captured data for an Australian community newspaper’s article using our Listener digital data platform and combined this with typical royalty payments from the digital music-streaming industry to estimate the potential revenue from such a market arrangement.

August: In August, our subject focused on benefits of intelligent paywalls and the four key elements of a digital subscription operation. The fact that more than half of subscriptions come from other sales channels besides the paywall is often overlooked in many organisations.

September: The Mather Reader Revenue Symposium was held in Hamburg, Germany, in September, and a summary of the sessions was the subject of the September post. Insights from several leading European and American publishers were presented at this event. Please join us in Dublin in October for next year’s symposium.

October: A case study on digital subscription renewal price tests identified optimal renewal price points, and the methodology and conclusions were discussed by my co-author Matthew Lulay and me for our October blog post.

November: We examined the four primary inputs to a customer’s propensity to subscribe in November. My co-author, Arvid Tchivzhel and I discussed the significance of measuring the marginal propensity effects of these inputs to drive recommended actions.

Onward to 2020

We are currently working with several publishers on initiatives that will be the subject of interesting blog posts in 2020. We anticipate innovations in collaborative data-sharing efforts among publishers, advertising solutions using first-party data, content analytics, subscription marketing, and yield management.

Mather Economics had a big year with the establishment of our partnership with Mediahuis. Working with our new teammates, we are excited to open an office in continental Europe, expand our Listener digital data platform, and offer new analytics solutions for the news media industry and other industries.

We at Mather Economics wish you and your organisations a prosperous and productive 2020.

About Matt Lindsay

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